Twitter, Google join tech firm push back in HK - RTHK
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Twitter, Google join tech firm push back in HK

2020-07-07 HKT 15:27
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  • Major technology firms now say they have suspended processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters
    Major technology firms now say they have suspended processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters
Google and Twitter have suspended processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong, they said, following the establishment of a sweeping new national security law in the city.

Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, had said earlier said in a statement it was pausing reviews for all of its services "pending further assessment of the National Security Law”.

Google and Twitter said they suspended their reviews of data requests from Hong Kong authorities immediately after the law went into effect last week.

Twitter cited "grave concerns" about the law's implications.

Google said it would continue reviewing Hong Kong government requests for removals of user-generated content from its services.

Social networks often apply localized restrictions to posts that violate local laws but not their own rules for acceptable speech. Facebook restricted 394 such pieces of content in Hong Kong in the second half of 2019, up from eight in the first half of the year, according to its transparency report.

Tech companies have long operated freely in Hong Kong as the internet access in the city has been unaffected by the firewall imposed on the mainland, which blocks Google, Twitter and Facebook.

Asked about the moves by the US tech firms and prospects for media freedom, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a news conference on Tuesday: "Ultimately, time and facts will tell that this law will not undermine human rights and freedoms."

Apple said on Monday it does not receive requests for user content directly from the Hong Kong government. Instead, it requires authorities there to submit requests under a mutual US-Hong Kong legal assistance treaty.

The US Department of Justice receives the requests and reviews them for "legal conformance," Apple said.

Messaging app Signal, which promises end-to-end encryption, has seen a surge in sign-ups by Hong Kong residents in recent days.

"We'd announce that we're stopping too, but we never started turning over user data to HK police. Also, we don't have user data to turn over," it said on Twitter on Monday. (Reuters)